Generations of Night Vision Devices

Key Generations of Night Vision Devices

There has been a technological breakthrough on night vision devices or NVDs. The features of the NVDs that were used during World War II have been advanced technologically over the years.

This has led to the development of various generations of night vision devices.

Each generation, or the level through which the NVD is being technologically improved, is made better than the previous one. For this reason, certain generations have been quite affordable.

Long-time ago, these devices were not available in the market for everyone who had the need for them. These days, anyone can own them.

They have unlimited uses unlike before where the militaries were using them to survey their area and fight their enemies at night. This has contributed significantly to their popularity among many people, especially outdoor enthusiasts.

Before you embark on a journey to get yourself one, it is good that you familiarize yourself with the kind of NVDs you will find in the market. This way, you will know which generation will work with your budget and the specifications you will need for your preferred device.

Get basic information about them is paramount before storming the market. Consider these generations and the modifications that have been made in each one of them over the years.


 generations of night vision devices

Generation 1

The first generation is the most affordable of them all. Its NVDs have grown in popularity significantly as the years go by. In fact, most people who have embraced the use of other NV devices have at one point or another used first generation NVDs.

In this generation, any available light is amplified thousands of times. This way, a human eye is able to see objects when darkness sets in, although not as clearly and brightly as in other generations.

This is because its resolution is quite low. We can say that the technology used in these devices is outdated. Also, an NVD can only be used at a range of fewer than 100 yards. 

It has a built-in IR illuminator. This feature does not allow it to operate passively. For this reason, it can easily give out the position of someone who is using it if their opponent uses a device that is highly powered than theirs.

There is more; a highly-pitched whine or a static noise is experienced while using it and its green glow does not stop immediately the device is switched off. 

Its quality is poor when compared to others. For example, geometric distortion is experienced when using it. As a result, the field of view is quite small.

Though it has become common among many people, it is not as durable; the battery life is poor, so you will have to keep replacing it and the life expectancy of the image intensifier tube is very short at 1500 hours.

Also, it cannot be used during the day or in urban areas at night where there are other artificial sources of light. This is because of the blooming effects that are experienced. It is also not as versatile as other generations.

They have a wide range of uses including security and outdoor activities like hunting.

Generation 2

This generation is similar to the first but there are a few major improvements that are seen here. This involves the addition of a microchannel plate and advancement in the intensifier tube.

This plate is positioned behind the negatively charged electrode or the photocathode. It multiplies the electrons several times and it is made up of several glass tubes that are parallel to each other.

When the electrons from the photocathode pass through the glass tube, it triggers the release of thousands of other electrons. As a result, light is amplified millions of times.

The image that results from this process is much more clear, crisp and brighter than the one produced by the generation 1 NVD.

The quality of this NVD is topnotch and the intensifier tube is greatly upgraded. Therefore, its performance and efficiency are unparalleled. It produces images with high resolution and it has a built-in power supply.

The resolution is between 45 and 54 lp/mm. The battery life is much better and the life expectancy of the intensifier tube goes beyond 10000 hours.

The NVD has a maximum range of 200 yards. This is far much better than the 75 yards range in the previous generation. There are also no built-in illuminators; therefore its operations are passive.

The nighttime performance is great. Here, the user is allowed to see images with high clarity and brightness because no image distortion is experienced and therefore the field of view is excellent.

The NVD in generation 1 experiences blooming when there is excess light. This is not the case with generation 2 NVD. It is highly reliable and adaptable and as a result, its monoculars are very versatile.

The modulation transfer function (MTF) is unparalleled. The signal-to-noise ratio is also increased. Due to these advancements the user is allowed to see images with high resolution, clarity, and brightness.

You cannot say that these NVDs are the real deal but they are big leagues whose efficiency is guaranteed. It is, therefore, a valuable item to own. However, you may get discouraged by their prices because they are quite pricey.

Generation 3

The NVDs used by the Special Forces and the US military fall under this category. Choosing this kind of device will answer the question: does night vision devices work underwater? 

In this generation, there is an addition of gallium arsenide, a very sensitive chemical, into the material of the photocathode. To increase the life of the image intensifier tube, an ion barrier film is also introduced and it has an exceptionally high voltage power supply.

The microchannel plate is greatly improved. This increases resolution because it is between 64 to 72 microamperes per lumen as well as the signal to noise ratio that stands at 26.

For this reason, it produces high-resolution images whose clarity and brightness are unmatched. It can be used at a range of 300 yards or more. This is greater than the range in the second generation NVD.

The intensifier tube also lasts for more than 10,000 hours. This is because of the gated power supply that is used, thus, enhancing reliability at all times. It does not convert operations at all because it operates extensively.

Due to these advancements, the NVD in this generation performs exceptionally well even in the dead of the night. In addition, they can be used in urban areas where there is light pollution. The artificial lights in urban areas like the streetlights, flashlights, the headlights of vehicles and others cannot hinder its performance.

When militaries and law enforcers use NVDs in urban areas, a halo effect is not experienced at all. The third-generation device minimizes this effect. This is as a result of the gated power supply it uses.

This device comes with a data record sheet.

The higher the generation, the more pricey it becomes. The devices in this generation are very expensive and therefore there are restrictions put in place on who they are supposed to be sold to. The US military and government agencies use this NVD.

Generation 4

This is the recent night vision technology. The NVDs have not been released in the market yet. They must go through a series of tests to gauge whether they are fit for the operations which they will be used for before they are made available to anyone.

The US military and government agencies are using generation 3 NVDs. Gen 4 devices have not been adopted yet. However, they are known to give a state-of-the-art performance than all the other three generations of NVDs.

This is one of the generations to be greatly preferred when reviewing the uses of night vision devices.

NVDs in this generation perform exceptionally well in extremely low light conditions. They are also very efficient during the day.

These are not the only advancements this device has seen; there is a massive increase in the signal-to-noise ratio.

The ion barriers that were previously added in the third generation are removed at this level and its power supply is gated. This allows it to produce very high-resolution images.

The technology in the power supply allows the device to be used both day and night. These ion barriers are referred to as being gated or filmless.

All in all, great performance sums up this generation. It will also be the most expensive night vision device one can ever own.

The video explains the various differences in the generations of night vision devices

Taking Care of the Generations of Night Vision Devices

All generations of night vision devices are a very vital asset that should always be taken care of. Investing a sizeable amount in such an asset is not enough.

You should be conversant with the safety measures when using them. This way, your device can serve you for as long as it is supposed to and avoid situations that would render it useless or pose a danger to you.

Bright light

The first and second-generation NV devices are engineered to work in low or extreme light conditions. Their performance during the day can, therefore, be very poor. The tube system can be destroyed by excess light especially during the day.

You can prevent such a device from getting destroyed when it suddenly comes into contact with too much light. There are devices on the market with auto cut off features.

These are the most suitable because excessive exposure to light will shut it down.

Extreme weather conditions

The weather changes on a regular basis and you cannot wait until the conditions are favorable to go about your activities at night. The right thing to do is to buy a device that can be used in all weather conditions.

Most of the NVDs on the market have great and advanced features. Choose the best. Rain, fog and other unfavorable weather conditions should not dictate how you use your device.


As you have seen, there have been four generations of night vision devices with each generation being more advanced than the previous one.

Generation 1 is quite affordable, but it cannot be relied on because of how poor it is in efficiency compared to all the others above it.

The second generation is better than the first, but poor when compared to generation three. The prices for the NVDs also keep going up in each generation. Therefore, if you want to buy one or to upgrade, this information will come in handy. 

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